Whether it has something to do with the outstanding play of Braden Holtby in net, the way the Washington Capitals play, the fact that this time the Boston Bruins were playing the second of back to back games, or the black cat theory voiced by Anton Khudobin, the Bruins just can’t seem to solve the Capitals. The loss on Thursday night marked the 11th straight for Boston against Washington. They are now 0-9-2 against the Capitals. The last win against this team for the Bruins came at the Verizon Center in D.C. on March 29, 2014.
Before getting into some of the other possible reasons, perhaps the most interesting was Khudobin’s.
“We shot a lot of pucks and some things didn’t go our way,” he shared. “When the black cat crosses the road, it’s just a black cat across the road.”
Not surprisingly, those hearing this answer—aka, The Media—needed a bit more on this answer and what it meant.
“That mean we shot it how many time, 35? Hit how many crossbars? [The Capitals] played pretty well offensively,” Khudobin elaborated. “Even that third goal, kind of puck on the backdoor. I stopped it and it just crawled over my pad. That’s what it means.”
Certainly, the Capitals played a high-tempo, offensive game. And the Bruins are not out looking for a black cat to blame the loss on. To a man they stepped up and pointed the finger at their game.
“We knew we had to keep things simple early and stay disciplined, and we didn’t do that in the first period.” Patrice Bergeron said after the game. “Somewhat got a little better in the second.”
Discipline was a problem for the Bruins in the first period. They took their first penalty at 2:57, when Bergeron was called for a delay of game after sending the puck over the glass. They killed that penalty and three and a half minutes later, Anders Bjork was in the box for a hold. Once again, the Bruins kept the Capitals from scoring. As Charlie McAvoy found himself sitting eight minutes later for a holding the stick penalty, you couldn’t help wondering if this might not be poking at a hornets’ nest. Fortunately for the Bruins it was a shortened power play for Washington, as their Niklas Backstrom was whistled for a tripping penalty.
Those weren’t the only penalties of the evening, but they certainly made it difficult for the Bruins to play their game as they were often relying on their penalty killing units. And while they did kill off those three penalties, the excessive need to use the special teams can wreak havoc when the teams are back to full strength, which may have been a contributing factor when the Capitals’ scored their first goal off the stick of Jakub Vrana.
While it was the second game in two nights, and the Bruins had arrived home in the wee hours of Thursday morning after squeaking out their overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, they refused to use that as an excuse.
“We’re professionals. We’re all in good shape. We can play in back-to-backs,” Brad Marchand said. “I mean, it’s never fun getting in at 3 a.m. and playing the next day, but it is what it is and we gave ourselves every opportunity to win. We just didn’t capitalize on the opportunities.”
The Bruins had talked about not having to play from behind like they did against Detroit on Wednesday. They had a plan before that first puck dropped.
“The first thing is we wanted to be more physical, more assertive against the Caps,” Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We seem to wait around to see what would happen and then get behind and then react to it, so we were hoping we could set the tempo and try to be physical, more assertive, control the play early against a team that was sitting here, waiting for us.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t how the game began. The Bruins certainly didn’t look like a team that was tired from playing the night before and traveling. The second period was their best of the night, with Bergeron getting Boston their first goal of the game to tie things up at that point. The Bruins also limited the Capitals to just three shots on net in the middle frame. Unfortunately, one of those shots was on the power play and it found the back of the net giving the Capitals the lead again.
The one attribute that was clear as Alex Chiasson got two goals in the third period to put the Capitals up 4-1 over Boston, was that the Bruins never backed down. They never stopped trying. David Krejci would get the Bruins second goal of the night as the clock ticked under four minutes remaining in regulation. Even after the Capitals tallied an empty net goal to go up 5-2, the Bruins pulled another back on the power play with 27 seconds left in the game—Bergeron’s second goal of the game.
For the younger players in black and gold, the loss against the Capitals will need to be a learning experience—especially for Bjork who spent more time on the bench than on the ice as the game went along. Bjork had the penalty in the first and was on the ice for two of the Capitals goals. He was limited to 11 shifts and just 6:47 in time on ice.
“You’re going to see that during the season, especially for young guys,” Bergeron offered. “I think it’s about going back to what you do best. I think when you move your feet and you stop and start in the right position, things fall back into place. He’s right there and the plays are going to come back to him. I think it’s part of being a professional and being a young guy and learning, so I’m not worried about it.”
While the Bruins once again didn’t beat the Capitals, there were positives to be taken from the game. They have Friday to refocus before they take on the New York Rangers on Saturday night. In the meantime, there really isn’t a reason to panic over the loss. The Bruins know what they need to address, and they will.